Workers Report Burnout Due to Healthcare Cybersecurity Concerns

Jill McKeon

Oct. 6, 2021

Three-quarters of industry professionals reported having healthcare cybersecurity concerns about protected health information being communicated via unsecured communication devices.

Physician burnout was a growing problem prior to the pandemic, but other healthcare professionals are reporting significant levels of burnout as well, according to a survey conducted by Spok. Over 50 percent of IT staff and contact center staff reported feeling a considerable level of burnout. Meanwhile, over 60 percent of clinical executives reported feeling “a great deal” of burnout since the pandemic.

Healthcare professionals overwhelmingly agreed that the risk of clinician burnout is a public health crisis “that demands action by healthcare institutions, governing bodies, and regulatory authorities.” Many credited complicated technologies and poor technological integration as some of the leading factors in clinician burnout.

The research suggested that improved communication tools could lessen the risk of clinician burnout.

“Survey respondents seem to agree that improving communication technology could help address the risk of burnout through increasing efficiency of workflows, improving exchange of data between care members, and adopting mobile technologies,” the study explained.

COVID-19 reshaped many aspects of care delivery, and also highlighted the need for secure communication technologies that can simultaneously comply with HIPAA and seamlessly integrate into an organization’s operations.

Just over 80 percent of surveyed healthcare workers reported believing that COVID-19 played a role in protected health information (PHI) being communicated via unsecured or personal communication tools.

Researchers surveyed over 200 healthcare executives, physicians, IT personnel, nurses, and contact center representatives about the state of communication in their organizations. Results revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic not only caused significant healthcare worker burnout, but also shifted resources away from valuable cybersecurity initiatives.

“With security and privacy issues on the rise in 2021, perhaps it’s not unexpected that survey respondents are concerned,” the survey report stated.

“Looking ahead, hospitals and health systems may need to bolster initiatives to meet HIPAA standards for PHI protection and to avoid noncompliance, reputational harm, and serious financial penalties. It could also signify the need for health systems to have in place an advanced, HIPAA-compliant critical communication solution.”

All industries have become increasingly reliant on communication technologies, especially during the pandemic when mobile communication devices became the primary method of communication for many workplaces.

Smartphones have remained the number one most supported device in healthcare since 2012, as in-house pager use continues to decrease. However, pagers still play a key role in care team communications.

Most respondents reported that their organization’s budget constraints continue to prevent them from updating their outdated communication devices. In addition, the complexity of meeting HIPAA requirements and insufficient leadership support are major obstacles in advancing a healthcare organization’s internal communication tactics.

Implementing new communication tools also presents new cybersecurity risks and calls for enterprise-wide training programs.

Just under half of respondents reported that their teams paused outstanding IT communication projects during the pandemic. While 43 percent of respondents expected to resume these projects within the next six months, the rising prevalence of the Delta variant may alter that timeline.